On Tuesday, Joe Biden made a small gaffe when speaking to a crowd of supporters in Danville, Virginia. He indicated that listeners would help the Obama-Biden ticket carry North Carolina – not Virginia – another 2012 battleground state. However, another Biden off-the-cuff comment has elicited a manufactured outrage from conservatives for his alleged racially loaded language. The comment in question:
BIDEN: He said in the first hundred days he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.
To anyone with a modicum of common sense, Biden is using a metaphor to express the notion that deregulation which favors the financial sector necessarily subjugates Main Street. Such analogies using ‘chains’ or ‘shackles’ in reference to economic matters are common fare by politicians. Soledad O’Brien, hosting Anderson Cooper 360, showed a reel of GOP lawmakers from John Boehner to Paul Ryan using similar expressions to describe the effects of tax increases or regulations on free enterprise by the Obama administration.
Nonetheless, the backlash from the conservative community was swift and condemnatory. Romney’s National Press Secretary, Andrea Saul, released the following statement in response to the Vice President’s comments (emphasis added):
After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama Campaign has reached a new low. The comments made by the Vice President of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama Campaign will say and do anything to win this election. President Obama should tell the American people whether he agrees with Joe Biden’s comments.
I’ve been paying pretty close attention and have yet to witness any slanderous or baseless accusations made against Governor Romney, which the exception of Harry Reid and his inside source. Romney pays a lower tax rate than the average working American. Bain Capital was a pioneer in outsourcing. The Salt Lake City Olympics relied on public, government funds. Romney uses the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter and has held a Swiss bank account. These are facts that refute the artificial persona being built around St. Willard of Success, and a fair and integral part of the campaign.
The setting of Biden’s speech may have played into the overreaction from the Right. Danville was the last capital of the Confederate States, featured a boycott of white merchants in 1963 during the Civil Rights movement and has a population evenly divided between African-Americans and Caucasians. The Romney campaign is no stranger to racially tinged appeals. Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore accuses the campaign of race baiting in its factually errant focus on Obama’s welfare revisions. As Kilgore notes, this particular tactic of dividing the populace into the industrious haves and the lazy have-nots has its roots in Bourbon France (and was later perfected in Nixon’s Southern Strategy).
Despite extensive coverage, CNN has done this dispute a disservice by turning it into a prime exhibit of false equivalence. The ‘chains’ controversy was featured not only on 360, but also the Situation Room, OutFront, and Piers Morgan Tonight. Yet none of these programs showed, or even mentioned, the explicitly racial and offensive comments made by none other than Colonel Allen West, Representative from Florida’s 22nd District. Speaking at a campaign rally on July 1, Col. West made these remarks (no emphasis needed):
REP. ALLEN WEST, R-FLA.: He does not want you to have the self- esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave and be economically dependent upon him.
Is it fair that Col. West escapes media scrutiny for these remarks because he is an African-American? I’ll let the reader decide.
In the meantime – to Col. Allen West, the Romney campaign and the mainstream media, this one goes out to you. Take it away, Aretha!